Fun with seared stamps

One of my favourite ranges of stamps of recent years is the John Byars wooden set of nostalgic childhood images, released by do crafts in 2010. They remind me of pictures of my Dad when he was little (always in shorts!), and that in turn gives me a warm gooey feeling of closeness to my dear, departed Nanna. I was lucky enough to demo the collection on Create and Craft with Stephanie Weightman, and it was the first time I had a sell out in the hour.

I’m often asked at demos whether wood-mounted rubber stamps are better than clear unmounted ones. It’s a tricky question, as it depends on your priorities. Wooden stamps are lovely to hold, and rubber stamps can be used for techniques involving direct heat, like triple embossing, or stamping onto films and fibres. They do require a bit more care when cleaning though, take up more space (although you can unmount them), are more expensive, and are harder to position precisely. In contrast, clear acrylic stamps are cheap, easy to use and clean (as long as you don’t mind some staining), but can’t be used with direct heat. My advice generally is just to choose the images you like, regardless of material, unless you want to build up scenes/complex images (choose clear) or use direct heat (choose rubber).

With the John Byars stamps though, I found another reason to choose wood-mounted. The guide image has been seared onto the wood, rather than just printed, so you can try out your brass-rubbing skills on them for a different effect. That’s how I got the inverse kite effect at the bottom of this card, using watercolour pencils. You need to press quite firmly, keep the pencils as flat as possible (so you don’t fall down the dents) and take care not to rub to the edge of the stamp (or you get a line). I really like the effect, and I’d love to hear what you think of it, so please leave me a comment. I’d also love to know if you’ve found any other stamps with seared images like this.

If you missed out on these stamps, don’t despair. Do crafts have some designs left in their sale here at nearly half price if you’re a Creativity Club member.

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In praise of baby wipes. Well, sort of

One of the most common questions I’m asked in card-making demos is “what’s the best way to clean rubber stamps?”.  I wouldn’t say I have the best way, but I prefer to use purpose made stamp cleaner (the Papermania and Ranger ones with the felty applicator are my faves).  I rub it on, leave for a couple of minutes and rub gently with an old toothbrush.  For a quick clean of a newly inked stamps, I keep some baby wipes handy – they’re great if you just want to change to another colour.  I always get the alcohol free ones, as alcohol can damage rubber, making it brittle and powdery if left for a long time.  Whichever cleaner I use, I’m always very careful to rinse it off before I put the stamps away.  Unmounted stamps can be rinsed under the tap, but mounted ones can quickly become unmounted if the foam backing gets too wet, so I rinse these by dabbing with a wad of wet kitchen towel.

There are a few reasons I don’t choose to use baby wipes full time for cleaning my stamps.  The ‘proper’ stuff doesn’t contain anything bad for your stamps, and it’s wetter, so is best at shifting old dried-on ink – it’s often many hours (sometimes days!) before I get a chance to clean the stamps I’ve used in demos.  Also, when I use baby wipes to clean a lot of stamps at once, it makes my skin go very wrinkly and feel quite unpleasant.  Midwives don’t recommend that you use baby wipes on a young baby’s skin, but as a new Mum, I ended up with loads of free packs – far too many for the odd dab at an inky stamp!  As well as dissolving permanent ink, a friend once told me that baby wipes are great for cleaning light coloured handbags, so I decided to do a little experiment around the house to see what else I could use my wipe mountain for.  The results surprised and shocked me.  They cleaned my kitchen worktop and hob more easily than any kitchen cleaner, dealt with the greasy film on the cooker hood without scrubbing, removed previously indelible unidentified grubby marks on doors and made light work of spider poo on the windowsills.  I even managed to make a difference to the inside of the oven!  No dirt is safe in my house now, and the baby wipe is my new best friend.  Goodness knows what they’ve got in them to dissolve all those different substances but one thing is certain, they’re never going near my baby’s bum!

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